Google's Mobile Play Is Promising But Immature - VARs


Google has been working for more than two years on a secret mobile phone project, according a report in the New York Times. A Linux-based operating system and mobile versions of its desktop applications, including a Web browser, are in development, the newspaper reported. If true, Google could further pit itself squarely against Microsoft -- Google also plans to offer a suite to rival Microsoft Office -- and Apple's new iPhone platform. Google's strategy should be detailed by the end of the year, according to the report.

Ray Nelson, CTO of Consultedge, a Whippany, N.J.-based solution provider and 2007 Fast Growth 100 company, said Google could pose a challenge, but it has not done very much to attract channel partners thus far.

"Everybody has an eye on Google. They're in play out there and when they go to attack the enterprise, and present products, they will be formidable competition to Microsoft," Nelson said. "[But] from [our] perspective, they might come out with a piece of software like Microsoft has, but until they decide to integrate it into the channel, I don't see a reason why we would pursue that product."

Nelson expects Google to have more success, at least initially, with the consumer market than in the enterprise. "They've had somewhat limited success in the enterprise. Everything I look at, they don't scare me too much," he said.

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Joel Saltzman, president of Dr. Wireless, a Torrance, Calif.-based solution provider, said he would sell Google mobile applications if it makes the best sense for his end user customers.

"Once Google can show viable solutions, we'll consider what they're doing. Right now the incumbents have the infrastructure, the technology," Saltzman said. "We're watching to see what Google is going to do. They're certainly big and at $600 a share, they must be doing something right. I can't say we're for or against them until we know more about it."

Saltzman likened Google's plans to Apple's recent big splash in the mobile phone market. He has reservations about offering the iPhone to clients right now. "We've seen so many MVNOs come and go. We'd rather stay with the incumbent technology. That's not to say Google won't eventually have it," he said. "Whoever's getting it done, that's who we'll support."

It's also unclear how Google would bring the software to market, on its own phones or through relationships with other carriers. The company recently tried unsuccessfully to have the FCC alter its strategy to auction off bandwidth in the 700-MHz spectrum, which reportedly ruffled feathers of existing carriers. "They wanted the FCC to totally redo the way they auctioned off the spectrum to accommodate Google. That's not the way you enter the new industry," Saltzman said. "Who knows we'll see what happens. There are so many players that have hopped in not gotten it done. They're big enough, if they embrace the right technologies and services, they could go do it."